South Africans are expected to buy between 9,500 and 10,000 Apple computers and between 40,000 and 50,000 iPods this year, says distributor Apple IMC executive director Rutger-Jan van Spaandonk. Van Spaandonk spoke to ITWeb last week after a media presentation of Apple's new Mac OS X Tiger operating system, which was launched worldwide a month ago.

This is the first time a clearer picture of Apple's sales in this country has been made public, as the US-owned manufacturer does not release specific country sales data outside of the US. Apple IMC (the trading name for The Core Group) is the sole Apple representative and distributor in SA – roles it assumed following the closure of Apple's representative office in January.

Van Spaandonk says sales of Apple computers are on track to rise by another 50% this year after having done so for the past four years. “We feel the pricing is about right and there are no supply problems, apart from the Powerbook – which is a worldwide issue. SA is the second best performer within Apple's European, Middle East and Africa region,” he says.

Van Spaandonk says expansion of the Apple retail footprint is going ahead with Apple IMC planning to help establish between four and five Apple Centres this year.

Apple Centres are established with a partner who funds the store furniture, pays the staff and buys the products. Apple IMC signs the lease with the shopping mall.

“Large shopping malls refuse to sign leases with small companies. So we do it and then the reseller runs the company. It is us who takes on the major financial risk, because the smaller companies are unable to do so,” he says.

One of the new Apple Centres is planned for Cape Town's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The city already has two other Apple Centres – Digicape and Project 3.

Most of the other new Apple Centres will be located in Gauteng with at least one in Pretoria. There is already an Apple Centre – Computer Apple Buddies – in Sandton, with another value-added reseller, C3, in Cresta. Durban is scheduled to receive its first Apple Centre this year.

Apple IMC is also working to land large corporate accounts that will involve rental-type agreements between it, its resellers and the client. Van Spaandonk says these deals (some of which could be announced within the next couple of months) will include hardware, software licensing and maintenance aspects – the latter being handled by the reseller.

“We [Apple IMC] have to handle these deals, because we are the ones taking the financial risks,” he says.

Greg Hill, Apple IMC MD, says group licensing for Tiger is available starting at R450 per seat for 10 users up to 99 users and groups larger than that pay R400 per seat.